National Writing Project

Using Wikis at the Primary Level

By: Jason Shiroff
Date: March 6, 2012

Summary: Jason Shiroff, teacher-consultant and technology liaison of the Denver Writing Project, explores the use of wikis with elementary school students. In his VoiceThread, Shiroff shares his students' wiki writing experiences in their own voices and his best practices for integrating technology tools in the classroom.


Excerpt from Digital Is Resource

In this VoiceThread, Jason Shiroff introduces wikis to his 4th and 5th grade students. He describes the underlying best practices he follows and talks about a technology inquiry process he uses with his students. Shiroff also talks about how wikis were used to improve content area learning and students discuss the impact wikis had on their learning.

The inquiry process is at the heart of all the technology tools I use with my students. This page shows the common sequence I use when introducing students to new technology. The first step is the 'play' step, and I believe that play is an essential step for students learning new technologies. This step gives the students free reign to explore the new tools without having "serious work" to accomplish. This stage allows for students' natural curiosity to take over and test the limits of the technology in a really low-risk setting. I found out that when I skip this step, or move through it too quickly, I noticed that students will still want to play when I actually want them to do the serious work.

The next step in the inquiry process is practice, and this is the step where I provide more direct instruction about technology for the students. The stakes are pretty low in terms of producing high-quality work, but the students are required to complete some specific tasks. For the classroom technology whizzes in my class, this stage is typically really easy. My mini-lessons and assignments are essentially scaffolded for students that need some more help.

The third step in the process is the application stage where it says 'Apply'. This is the stage where content area work is integrated with the new technology. Students learn to apply their new technology skills to enhance their content knowledge. The assignments at this step in the process should be more related to classroom learning and less about learning new technologies. This is where you would start to work on those state standards that we are held responsible for.

The final step in the sequence of the inquiry project is to synthesize. This is where I ask the questions to students: Do they choose to use the new technologies on their own to complete work? Are they becoming more independent when choosing which technology tools to add to their classroom? Do they use the new tools outside of schoolwork and how?

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